Simon Campbell, a member of the Pennsbury School Board in Bucks County, told about 100 attendees of the monthly Lehigh Valley Tea Party meeting that they should hold officials’ “feet to the fire” over teachers union contracts.
Campbell said teacher salaries and benefits need to be comparable to those in the private sector.
“Nobody has these guaranteed pensions in the private sector,” he said. “I have a big problem with all these benefits and packages these people get.”
Speaking at Palmer Township's Community Center, Jan. 6, Campbell, originally from England, said he never thought he'd be involved with politics, but found himself drawn in shortly after settling in Bucks County with his wife, a New York native.
In 2005, there was a teachers strike, despite Bucks County teachers on average being the highest paid in the state, he said.
So he did research and found that 37 states don't allow teachers to strike.
Of the 13 that do, he said, Pennsylvania has the most strikes. “I'd like to see Pennsylvania be number one for some things, but teacher strikes isn't one of them.”
Later, he put together a website, www.stopteacherstrikes.org.
And after becoming a U.S. citizen in 2009, he decided to run for the local school board, an office he won.
Once elected, he said he was even more dismayed.
“I had no idea there were non-union teachers,” he said, noting they are required to pay “fair use” fees, which Campbell says is outrageous.
“They're forced to pay union dues to keep their jobs,” he said, disputing the idea that even though they are not members, they still benefit from union efforts, such as collective bargaining.
The union requires teachers to pay dues or fees, which is “compulsory representation,” Campbell said.
“They're not free riders – they're captive passengers,” he said. “I have a massive problem with a private organization that can tax paychecks.”
The Pennsbury School Board on which Campbell serves eliminated compulsory union dues, he said.
“I think it's incumbent on local officials to look at these contracts ... It's not okay that officials sign off these contracts [automatically],” he said. “I would encourage you to hold [officials'] feet to the fire on this ... Any time you have union contracts coming up, you should be all over it. [School districts] do have the right to say ‘no.’
“The union should be told point blank, 'go collect your own money,'” he said. “If they can't use the government to collect the money, they won't get it.”
The power of teachers unions to influence politics comes from their ability to collect the dues through paychecks, Campbell said.